Burning through LA: winds cause multiple fires

Updated: Feb 28, 2019

Numerous fires rip through California within a 24-hour time frame.

By Meg Taylor, News Editor

California mountains are up in flames with the number of fires growing, torching thousands of acres and forcing entire communities to evacuate.

The numerous wildfires, which range from 180 miles northeast of San Francisco to the Santa Rosa Valley in Southern California, come as California recovers from wildfires that have devastated parts of the state in previous months. Following the mass shooting Wednesday leaving 12 residents dead, Thousand Oaks is now battling another attack with the Hill Fire. Farther north, the Camp Fire is demolishing the North California town of Paradise. The Woolsey Fire is burning in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. Most recently, a brush fire arose on the Hillside behind the LA Zoo in Griffith Park.

“It is critical that residents pay close attention to evacuation orders,” tweeted the Los Angeles County Fire Department. “This is a very dangerous wind-driven fire.”

Acting Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an emergency proclamation for Los Angeles and Ventura counties due to the effects of the massive fires, which have destroyed homes, threatened critical infrastructure and caused the evacuation of residents.

“We put people’s lives at risk, especially all of our first responders, when we don’t get out in time,” said Peter Foy, chairman to the board of supervisors for Ventura County.

During the press briefing for the Woolsey fire this morning, Foy continued to state, “The past 72 hours in Ventura County has been a difficult time … If you can help your neighbors, we really appreciate that. But also when the sheriffs come to your house and say it’s time to go, please get out.”

All together, these fires have charred over 90,000 acres of land in different parts of California. Authorities say the dry conditions in some parts of California are rather prime conditions for wildfires. In addition to the dehydrated hills, the Santa Ana’s 40-60 mile winds have the power to take the Woolsey Fire all the way to the ocean.

“The wind-whipped conditions … this is ripe conditions for explosive fire behavior,” said LAFD Capt. Erik Scott. “This is the new normal. When we have conditions like this, when it’s such incredible wind, that brings us in to a different caliber, so it’s become a much more challenging condition.”

The Woolsey Fire jumped the 101 freeway and is rolling through Kanan Canyon towards the ocean, forcing evacuation on over 75,000 homes. With the situation rapidly changing, that number is expected to grow. The Woolsey fire burned 14,000 acres and has a zero percent containment rate. Highway Patrol officials shut down the 101 in both directions at Liberty Canyon road after the blaze.

Ventura County Fire Department Captain Scott Dettorre warned that as the fire crosses the famous highway 101, “it will make its historic and typical run all the way down Pacific Coast Highway, threatening more homes, more property, more lives,” KTLA-TV reports.

The Hill Fire had consumed 6,100 acres, or 9.5 square miles, according to Cal Fire, though the Ventura County Fire Department reported no injuries or structure losses at a Thursday night press conference.

As of writing, the Camp Fire has burned 70,000 acres. Paradise was evacuated, along with the nearby communities of Magalia, Pulga, Concow, Butte Valley and Butte Creek Canyon. According to fire officials, the Camp Fire had quadrupled overnight. Houses and cars were devoured by the flames; the Camp Fire demolished Paradise. MSN News reported that the fire claimed multiple fatalities, but a full count has yet to be released.

The newest fire caused by the heavy wind is the Griffith Park fire burning behind the LA Zoo. With no wind in Burbank today and only growing to be two to three acres, this fire has a promising end. The fire has charred 30 acres of difficult terrain that firefighters had to hike to get to due to the fire’s placement. LA Zoo officials have started preparing the animals for evacuation and hosing down the areas on the hillside that may be vulnerable to burning. There are no damaged structures or injuries reported at this time.

Valley College’s community is being directly affected by these fires. Friends and families of both students and faculty either know someone being forced to evacuate or are evacuating themselves.

“I’m shocked…I’m shaking,” said Valley College student Assaf Assaraf. “Wow, I never thought this would happen to someone I know.”

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